I was particulary amused by a 1611 English Travelogue:
"The Italian, and also most strangers that are commorant in Italy,
doe alwaies, at their meales use a little forke when they cut the
meate; for while with their knife, which they hold in one hand, they
cut the meate out of the dish, they fasten their forke which they hold
in their other hande, upon the same dish, so that whatsoever he be
that sitteth in the company of any others at meate, should unadvisedly
touch the dish of meate with his fingers, from which all at the table
doe cut he will give occasion of offence unto the company as having
transgressed the lawes of good manners, insomuch for his error he
shall be at least browbeaten, if not reprehended in words."
Heh. "browbeaten, if not reprehended in words" - impressive that the
penalty for failure to properly use FoRKs has remained the same for
over three centuries...
"This forme of feeding I understand is generally used in all places
of Italy, their forks being for the most part made of yron or steele,
and some of silver, but those are used only by gentlemen. The reason
of this their curiosity, is because the Italian cannot by any means
endure to have his dish touched with fingers, seeing all men's fingers
are not alike cleane. Hereupon I myselfe thought good to imitate the
Italian fashion by this forked cutting of meate, not only while I was
in Italy, but also in Germany, and oftentimes in England, since I came
home, being once quipped for that frequent using of my forke by a
certain learned gentleman a familiar friend of mine, one Mr. Lawrence
Whittaker, who in his merry humour, doubted not to call me at table
Furcifer, only for using a forke at feeding but for no other cause.
The humor is, according to Bailey, in the use of "Furcifer" as a pun,
meaning fork-bearer, and also gallows-bird."
Wow. Furcifer. The official Bird of FoRK. Any ornithologists want
to see if this is a real name, or just English slang?
-- Ernie P.